|Dead When I Found Her|
This project is the brain-child of solo artist Michael Arthur Holloway and hails from Portland, Oregon. The project was started some time before 2010, however it was summer of 2010 that marked the release of the official debut album Harm's Way on Art of Fact Records. The album received extensive airplay and positive reviews from around the world and served as a catalyst for continuing to work on writing and releasing more music. Just two years later we were presented with the excellent follow-up work titled Rag Doll Blues. The end of 2015 saw the release of another stellar work in the form of All The Way Down which saw the band continue to mature and refine their sound and style. This was followed quickly by the harsh 2016 album Eyes on Backwards.
The music from this project is definitely a blast from classic industrial music past, along the lines of classic Skinny Puppy and other related bands from the 80's and 90's. The inclusion of a wide range of percussion and various synths, loops and samples create something of an eerie atmosphere. There are definitely hints of 80's new wave with the style of electronics used all mixed with modern electro-pop and heavy industrial styles. This project is a definite welcome addition to the pages of Gothic Paradise, you can hear selections on our radio show in heavy rotation.
Eyes on Backwards - Review
After the stellar selection of tracks on the previous albums we've reviewed and featured here, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to pick up another great album from this artist in 2016. Putting aside much hint of any mid-tempo or easily accessible electro-pop sound, the spikes come out and the harsh aggressive nature of the music comes out hard and heavy on this album. Presented across nine powerful tracks, this album is definitely not for the faint of heart.
From the very beginning we're treated with an onslaught of powerful layered, pulsating electronics backed by harsh and driving percussion on "Tantrum". This appropriately named piece really brings out the edge and harsh industrial sound, while not being guitar driven like the heavy industrial metal sound of later Ministry, it definitely has that edge in the electro-industrial genre. This harsh edge remains in force for most of the album and while creating some excellent, heavy classic industrial tracks that old-school rivetheads will love, we do have a nice variety across the selections presented here. "The Big Reverse" follows as a definite staple in this harsh industrial style with the bombastic and heavy staccato percussion peppering the listener. "Shining Path" also stands out as a favorite, with a slightly less machine gun approach to the drums, we have a bit of a hypnotic rhythm that takes over while the harsh vocals remain strong layered with the liberal addition of various movie or otherwise spoken word samples that are a staple in this genre and definitely from this artist.
About midway through the album is when we get to our definite favorite in the form of "High Anxiety". This is probably one of the least industrial pieces on the album, yet it still has all the perfect classic elements of a great electro-industrial track. The spoken word samples provide the perfect overlay to the dynamic and dance-friendly beat and layers of powerful electronics and synth loops that give it a nice melodic sound. Of course we still have the harsh vocals and plenty of industrial elements that keep the edge on for a truly powerful and dynamic piece. As the album winds on we venture into a roller coaster ride through the harsh sometimes even painful sounds and then on to the somber, subdued selections such as the mostly instrumental "The Pines" which is something of a haunting piece. This is definitely a nice respite to the harsh edge that permeate much of the rest of the album. This brings us to the finale to the album which brings back a bit of the edge, mainly through the vocals and heavier percussion as well as the backing sample tracks, but overall the electronic loops have a mesmerizing, catchy loop to wind down the album nicely across the final eight minutes.
This is definitely another stellar album to add to our collection of solid industrial music. A step away from the techno, cyber industrial sounds of the last decade or so, it's a nice and refreshing approach that is still great on this latest album.
All The Way Down Limted 2CD - Review
This was a great way to finish out 2015 with this new release from this project and for fans it was highly anticipated and a great treasure. For me the album has grown on me quite a bit over the weeks I've been enjoying it. I didn't have a chance to digest it in time for our best of 2015 running, otherwise I probably would have included it. As it stands, it's a great addition here, with an excellent mix once more of classic industrial styles, very reminiscent of Frontline Assembly with the heavy electronic layers, mid-tempo beats and dark and heavy vocoded robotic vocals.
It all kicks off with the stellar mid-tempo piece "Expiring Time" which could have easily been the perfect finale to the album as much as the introductory track. The mood is depressing, yet the eerie, melodic hooks are catchy and this lept into our top 10 and has remained there for many weeks. This track features the most melodic vocals on the album as well, at least as melodic as we hear from this project and with those melodic vocals over the haunting piano and electronics it's a great piece. As the album moves along we're presented with a diverse range of beats, intensity and moods. We have an instrumental piece with spoken word or movie samples that are so typical of this genre. This gives way to the somewhat laid-back piece "Threadbare" that moves along somberly and gives way to the bombastic "Gathering Fear" with the intense onslaught of percussion that drives this song hard to the listener's soul.
The more upbeat and melodic elements come out strong through "Downpour" which has a dance-friendly beat over somber and moody combinations of electronics and vocoded vocals. All along the bleak lyrics and music continue to pummel the listener into the darker corners of their soul with lyrics like "desperate to win, you are alone now". The dark emotional onslaught continues through one piece after another, some featuring heavier beats like "Blood Lessons" while others delve into the somber moods and sounds like the dark and brooding finale to the first disc "At Rest".
And just when you thought it couldn't get darker, or fall any lower we hit "The Bottom" with it's addition six tracks. It starts off upbeat with "New Drugs", a melodic dance-friendly track that lightens the mood a bit and gets the blood pumping and the body moving with the syncopated rhythms. We have another set of diverse tracks as we move through the instrumental piece "Heavenly Bodies" only to be thrown into the grinding abyss of the title track with a veritable maelstrom of percussion, vocals and noise at it's climax before giving way to dark, depressing ambient music backing the continued somber vocals. "Spitting Seeds" picks up next and at first it continues this somewhat ambient sound until the heavy electronics and percussion kick in and you realize we have a classic, hard-hitting, diverse industrial track here with all the goodies present that fans love. "So Cold" moves along in much the same way, but the finale to the album is a definite highlight for me with their excellent cover of Ministry's "You Know What You Are". It definitely has that original structure and style to it, but they've put the stamp of Dead When I Found Her heavily in the music with the layered heavy electronics, some slightly different samples and of course the slightly different harsh vocals.
Overall this is a great album with a great set of selections. While some you may have to be in the mood for the heavy onslaught, or make sure you don't have any depression triggers on others, the dark, brooding electronic music on most pieces comprise new favorites and a great new addition to any collection.
Rag Doll Blues Limited 2CD - Review
For those longing for a bit more of the classic industrial style mixed with all of the modern electronics of industrial, EBM and electro-pop music, this album is definitely your fix. This album is packed with great music spanning a dozen tracks of this great style of classic meets modern, edgy meets melodic, all coming together in one nice package on the original main disc. This album comes in a couple of different formats including download, regular CD and a double-disc limited edition featuring extra bonus tracks, covers and remixes, actually available to download separately as Stitches and Cover Ups. The bonus disc also comes with a great variety of music including an addition 12 tracks with six remixes, three exclusive new tracks and three covers (detailed below).
The album kicks off with a definite favorite personally as well as for listeners on the Club Mix in the form of "No More Nightmares". This piece highlights the style of classic industrial showcasing an excellent, heavy beat with a mix of percussion with layers of various electronic loops and synths. The vocals are much the same across all tracks, a sort of melodic whisper, fairly subtle, not yelling, not really distorted or sampled, but somewhat deep and almost sinister sounding. The samples on this as with other tracks give that dark and eerie, haunted feeling for a nice accent and finishing touch. As the listener delves into this haunted world, we find more and more of this dark, yet moving music coming alive across so many tracks. Each time I listen something new comes out becoming more noticeable, or more catchy, some things grow on you and others chafe depending on the mood and situation, but that's the nature of electro-industrial world.
For those looking for some dance-friendly piece still sporting that old-school style, we have plenty to choose from here. The first part of the album seems to really capitalize on the moving, heavy beats. "New Age" definitely stands out with it's driving groove, moving beats and excellent loops layered over various samples and the constant dark vocals. "Rain Machine" also builds on these styles withm a hard edge and driving beats that seems to be a favorite and a selection on the bonus disc for some remixes. As I've listened to these two pieces more and more, the vocoded vocals have started to stand out more to me as a nice touch, making these pieces a little more melodic and more accessible to fans of the electro-pop scene, really broadening the spectrum of musical styles on this album. "Dry Bed" shines a bit later with more of this great combination of styles, the hard-hitting beats, the abundance of movie samples coupled with somber sounds create such an incredible atmosphere with this music.
As previously mentioned, a great part of this album is the diversity in styles, tempo and so on. The aforementioned tracks seem to be the overall foundation for this project and probably a good sampling of what most fans will enjoy. However, I think there's some great accents from the extra harsh pieces "Better Days" and "Panic Matter", or the sinister "Scissors" with all the dark imagery or the aggressive nature of the music above and beyond the previously mentioned pieces. Another great accent to the album are the dreamier instrumental selections "Doll Pieces" and "Doll Parts". The album also wraps up with a nearly 9-minute long finale in similar fashion. This instrumental piece slowly moves along, gradually building, adding loops and samples and subtle beats to reach a nice climax and is really an excellent track, maybe not for the dance floor, but a definite favorite for me and potentially for any fans.
At this point we can take a quick look at the bonus disc available with this edition as well as separate digital download. Before I picked up this album I had been listening to the various covers available on soundcloud and so I had an idea of what would be on this disc. So with the dozen pieces here I don't think fans will be disappointed. The remixes presented are well done, some focusing on various elements such as a more electro-pop style, while others focus on the industrial. It can be interesting how different artists will take apart a track and put it back together. I won't go into any detail here but simply state that as far as remixes go, these are interesting and done well enough to make the disc worth picking up.
I think it's worth noting the three bonus exclusive tracks are also great inclusions, potentially cut from the original album as sub-part or simply not fitting well with the overall mood or concept of the album. Whatever the case may be, I think they're excellent additions. "Worlds Apart" is the first of these and is presented with that great mix of industrial meets electro-pop, not really heavy, but plenty of synth loops and layers upon layers of electronics and various percussion. "Underbelly" moves along a bit more aggressive with the stacatto electronics and drums, and like the previous piece lasts nearly eight minutes. The final original piece is also the finale to this disc and delves into the dreamier, more ambient instrumental styles previously mentioned on the first disc. Simply titled "Anchors", aptly named as an anchor to the album, bringing it to close in excellent style.
And finally to close, we'll just quickly mentioned the three cover tracks presented. Covers for me can be a love/hate relationship, some are really great and become new classics, while others just need to remain uncovered. It takes guts to cover a piece from a legendary band in the same genre and there are definitely a couple of these here. The first is "Kill To Cure", a classic Skinny Puppy track which I believe is pulled off well here, it's definitely one of the more aggressive pieces on this disc and something fans can enjoy. The next is "Down In It", a legendary Nine Inch Nails piece that I have mixed feelings about here. The cover is definitely taken and transformed into a somber, Dead When I Found Her Track, so I think I have to give that much to the artist. The final piece is probably a favorite from the covers (though I also enjoyed the cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry" available on soundcloud. This last cover is "In The Air Tonight" a classic favorite from Phil Collins well done, capturing the original moods yet adding just a hint of dark electro flair for a nice piece, very well done.
Well, I think that finally wraps up this review. I commend anyone who has read this far and just encourage you to go out and pick up this album, it's a great new classic for the new millenium.
Label: Art of Fact Records